Profile: Jeremy Gilley

The man marketing world peace

Starbucks on first name terms

Starbucks hopes to personalise the service offered at its coffee shops by calling all customers by their first name.

From Wednesday, (14 March) instead of writing the name of the drink ordered on the side of cups, Starbucks baristas will now write the customer’s name.

All Starbucks staff will also wear name badges in a bid to give a more friendly face to the in-store experience.

A TV ad, launching on Tuesday (13 March) laments how impersonal things have become and outlines Starbucks’ desire to change that. Print ads will also run in national broadsheets and freesheets as part of what Starbucks claims is its biggest ever advertising investment. Starbucks has also launched an email marketing campaign to its My Rewards members that says the first name initiative is “part of our promise to make your coffee experience as perfect as it can be.”

The coffee chain will also give away free lattes on Wednesday morning until midday, to encourage customers to come in and introduce themselves by name.

The ad voiceover says: “Have you noticed how everything seems a little impersonal nowadays? We’ve all become user names, reference numbers and IP addresses. That’s why at Starbucks we’ve decided to do things differently. From now on we won’t refer to you as a latte or a mocha, but as your folks intended - by your name. It’s only a little thing. We’re Starbucks. Nice to meet you.”

It is available to preview now on Starbucks website.

Using customer’s names is a strategy currently employed by a number of smaller coffee and drinks chains and independents.

Ian Cranna, vice president of marketing and category for UK and Ireland: “Starbucks customers already expect the coffee to be the best, and they told us that the emotional connection they feel in every store is what sets us apart. This campaign highlights the culture in all our stores, and the strong desire customers have to feel like an individual when so much of the world feels impersonal. We already know our customers, but now it is time to put a name a face.”

The coffee chain recently relaunched its latte to include an extra espresso shot to appeal to UK tastes.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Now all they have to do is make the coffee hot, rather than luke warm.

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  • Reinstate the £1 for filter coffee and then we'll talk.

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  • It is interesting that the initiative has been positioned across the UK, France and Germany with an emphasis on ‘getting to know you’ – not necessarily an obvious cultural fit in Europe. The famous British reserve has already prompted some commentators to bemoan the perceived over-familiarity of baristas asking for a name. And requesting a customer’s first name may ruffle feathers in France, where Monsieur and Madame are still liberally peppered through conversation, and the formal ‘vous’ remains alive and well.

    Giving too much weight to these individual cultural considerations is perhaps denying the power of the Starbucks brand, however. After all, by entering Starbucks, ordering a latte (not a coffee) and accompanying it with a donut, rather than an apple strudel, an Eccles cake or a Palmier, are we not actively aligning with a culture that owes more to its American roots than its location on British, French or German soil? By positioning the initiative in a way that references its trademark casual American friendliness, Starbucks is staying entirely true to its brand.

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  • I think this a particularly american manouvre, and loathe the day when a grinning barista then hands me my coffee with a "hey Bernard, here's your latte, have a great day". Coffee shops used to be libraries with hot drinks, places to go and think, read, and generally be anonymous. I do hope this strategy dies a horrible and early death, though knowing the mighty brand as i do, it is probably only the precursor to the next step - starbucks baristas turning up on my door, to borrow a cup of sugar; baristas offering up the best man speech at my wedding; and finally, though possibly most terrifyingly, my own eulogy brought to you by starbucks - "Bernard was a great guy, he loved lattes and life, in that order, hahaha, have a great afterlife Bernard!"

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  • For the 'anonymous' person who commented that this is a 'particularly American manouvre', well, guess what ... Starbucks is an American company. If you don't like the friendliness, stick with your Costa.

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  • What an awful idea. I'm afraid this first-name term thing has gone too far, and it just makes me want to put the phone down/walk out if people try it. However, there is always a way around this by giving your name as 'Mr/Ms SURNAME'.

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